How public lands and the outdoor economy became wedge issues in key races
Mountain West states were a political force in the 2016 election, hosting a number of competitive statewide and congressional races. While energy development has long been a prominent topic in Western races, in this cycle the outdoor recreation economy and public lands conservation became wedge issues in a number of key contests.
Across the West, voters have consistently referred to the outdoors and conservation as key aspects of their quality of life. Increasingly, voters also agree that the national public lands are a vital economic driver, strengthening outdoor recreation businesses and attracting new industries. At the same time, a far-right movement has pushed for these public lands to be transferred to state and private hands.
In the new report, Winning the West, the Center for Western Priorities examines key races in Montana, Colorado and Nevada, finding that candidates across the political spectrum tried to stake out positions supporting the continued federal ownership of public lands.